July 18, 2016
Recently, I wrote a review of Terry Hope Romero's newest cookbook, Protein Ninja, and although I made a fabulous salad I loved from one of the recipes, I also cooked a couple of items I was less fond of. I'd put the book aside for a bit, intending to give it another try, when I read a review here on Chow Vegan that made my mouth water. The two recipes that intrigued me were blackest bean chocolate seitan chili and tempeh sausage sage gravy, which she served over potatoes instead of biscuits. I probably skipped over the chili recipe when I first searched the book for something to cook because of the seitan, since I can't seem to eat glutenous foods without unpleasant gastric symptoms, and because it was served over a hunk of corn bread, which I didn't feel like baking. But it occurred to me as I read the review, I could substitute soy curls for the seitan, with the same chewy, savory effect, and polenta for the muffins. I immediately texted a dinner invitation to my son and daughter-in-law, because the recipe sounded like something my son, especially, would enjoy, and I wanted to try out the recipe on him. They texted back they could come, but Kate's parents would be in town so there would be two additional people, if we still wanted to do a dinner. Kate's parents, whom I adore, are committed omnivores — especially her dad, who might actually be more of a carnivore. How would the chili go over with them? And since I'd never made it before, I didn't know how it would taste. I briefly considered a different menu, but when I have my mind set on something, it's kind of hard to sidetrack me. Chili it would be. And salad.
The chili exceeded my highest expectations, as well as my hopes that my guests would enjoy it; the rich, spicy flavors of ancho chili, cumin and cinnamon were perfect. They loved it, and told me as much over and over. In fact, Kate's mom suggested I blog about the meal! And she asked for the recipe. She said if her husband likes a vegan meal, it's got to be good. He said it was the best vegetarian meal he'd ever had. Seriously, this is the recipe you need when you cook for meat-eating friends and relatives. I'm sure it would have been equally excellent with seitan, but the soy curls were a perfect solution for making the chili gluten-free. I prepared the soy curls the night before by soaking, squeezing and cooking them in a small amount of savory broth plus tamari plus lots of minced fresh garlic. Then I left them overnight in the refrigerator. I made 1-1/2 recipes of chili, and had enough left over for at least a dinner for two plus lunches. Why cook for just one night, right? In keeping with my latest dietary obsession to not use added oil in home cooking, I used no added oil in preparing the chili, besides what might have been in the chocolate, of course—nobody's perfect. The onions and garlic were sautéed in broth until they tasted cooked and sweet. I searched all over the Internet to try to find the chili recipe for you, but although I found lots of similar sounding chilies, none contained the unique combination of ingredients that made the chili stand out as the best I've ever tasted. Terry's recipe was nowhere to be found. You'll just have to buy the book!
One more thing. I've recently become aware of something called an air fryer, that fries foods with little or no oil. I read about it here on JL's blog. After doing some additional research and reading, I've learned that a convection oven, because it cooks with hot, moving air, can possibly accomplish the same thing. It so happens that my oven has a button to turn it into a convection oven, and I tried it out for the first time on the polenta I made to accompany the chili. I placed the polenta squares on a parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet and baked them in my convection oven, turning them over once during the baking. They turned out crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I intend to experiment more with using the convection oven to roast veggies, tofu, potatoes, burgers, etc. If I don't 'have to' buy another kitchen appliance for my already crowded little kitchen, all the better. We'll see. The air fryer sounds pretty great.